PAX West 2017: Trion’s PvE MMO shooter Defiance deserves a second look
I admit that before PAX West 2017, I hadn’t logged into Defiance in a long, long time. I couldn’t even say how long. Even so, I still have very fond memories of the hellbugs (isn’t it just so cute the way they try to eat off your face?), so I was intrigued to see where the game was nowadays. How is it doing? Where is it going?
I met with Executive Producer Matthew Pettit, who hooked me up with a character in-game for some high-level Arkfall hunting while we talked about recent updates and future plans for the open-world MMO shooter.
“I can tell you it’s going to be a very exciting year for Defiance,” Pettit told me. And after listening and playing, I think the game is definitely worth keeping an eye on — or maybe even jumping in right now.
Something a number of folks might not realize when talking about this shooter is that the game is PvE; most often shooters are equated with PvP (and very few if any have the world scope this does). That misunderstanding might drive people away. It might also be that Defiance is just not well known in the gaming community, despite being around for four years.
Pettit is more than aware of the problem. “We need to reach more people, so we are working on possibly expanding into other areas, maybe other consoles,” he said. As it is now, the game is on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. “We want this game to last five years into the future, and PS3 and Xbox 360 probably aren’t going to be around in five years.”
How does the game play currently? Pretty smoothly, judging from my time at the keyboard. The first thing we did was go use the map to find the closest Minor Arkfall, then after defeating it, we moved on to join other players at Major Arkfall (five minors plus a boss). Then we ended on a massive dynamic raid-type event facing the Progenitor. The ability to easily switch between six load outs — each with two weapons and a shield plus separate gear, vehicle, and looks — was really nice, as was the nearby ammo resupply box. (I’m pretty proud I actually didn’t die the entire fight!)
I honestly didn’t remember the game handling this well, though I never did reach this level of play in the real game. “It’s been out for four years and we’ve made massive amounts of improvements — it plays better, it feels better, and we fixed a lot of the stability problems we had early on,” Pettit reminded me. “There is a lot of the game that is great, and a lot of the game that we feel could be improved.”
To that end, Trion is expanding the Defiance team and also putting more resources behind it right now. “What we’re really trying to do is change some of the pain points that people have brought up over the years,” Pettit explained. “And just make a better product.”
One thing that the team wants to change is the abilities and ego perks into a class based system. Currently, the ego grid is a jumbled block of choices that Pettit called “convoluted and hard to understand.” So he said the idea is to revamp these by pulling them out into subclasses. Before the fear of getting locked into a class sets in, Pettit assured me, “You can switch your class at any time, but you have to level each class individually.” Furthermore, “You won’t be pigeon-holed into a class when you start the game.” The goal is to allow players to pick their playstyle, even if that changes from fight to fight.